We’ve asked the candidates for the Stone constituency for the General Election on 7th May to send us their election pitches, and to answer some specific local questions relating to the town. Click HERE to see all of the candidates’ pitches. Here’s what SAM HALE, the Labour candidate, has to say…
I was born and currently live in Cheadle, in the North end of the Stone constituency. After reading a degree from Lancaster University, I have returned to the Stone constituency where I currently run a business selling printer parts and consumables, and live with my partner Dee.
The upcoming General Election in May is about what kind of society we want in Stone and across Britain. As your Labour candidate I am fighting for social justice – where our economy serves the many, and not an elite few, where our society protects the weakest and poorest amongst us, and where we work and live together, freely, in a community that helps us all realise our true potential.
In the last 5 years, we have seen our country become one in which food banks are the norm, 400,000 disabled people have been hit with a cruel and unjust Bedroom Tax, and where multi-national corporations can dodge tax, whilst most small businesses and people pay their fair share. Time after time I hear on the doorstep: ‘We cannot continue like this’.
We will address the cost-of-living crisis that is affecting many households across the country. We will do this by increasing the minimum wage to £8, and help ensure that growth in our economy is balanced. We will also ban exploitative zero-hour contracts where employers use them simply to undermine labour legislation.
If elected, Labour will raise £2.5bn for a NHS Time to Care Fund by ensuring that hedge funds and tax avoiders play by the rules, and by asking those at the top to pay more. We will train and recruit 20,000 more nurses, 8,000 more GPs, 5,000 more homecare workers and 3,000 more midwives.
I’m proud to have been selected by Labour Party members in Stone to take this fight for our public services onto a national level. As a local Party we represent a very broad range of people, united in helping achieve a country and a society where those with the broadest shoulders bear the greatest burden, where fairness underpins what we want to achieve, and where we help bring equality of opportunity.
I hope that I can count on your support on May 7th.
1.) Stone is a growing town, with thousands of new homes to be built over the next few years. What needs to be done to make sure the local infrastructure can cope?
Firstly, we need to give communities the powers to get homes built where they want. One issue that we have encountered locally is the National Planning Policy Framework that was implemented by the Conservatives 3 years ago, that threatens to overrule local opinion and local democracy. In Baldwin’s Gate, Eric Pickles’ planners overruled the local council on a planning application for up to 113 houses. We cannot let developers tie the hands of the local council and undermine local decision makers.
We need to ensure that developers’ proposals not only expand the town but improve the town, and not to abuse our green spaces for a quick profit. We can do this by ensuring that developers are only given planning permission if they sign up to pay to build local infrastructure to ensure that schools, health facilities and community centres can meet the expansion plans.
2.) What needs to be done to improve the town centre economy to attract new businesses and support existing traders?
A thriving town centre economy must have a balance between high street chains and independent shops and stores. Stone’s High Street exceeds in this aspect, and together with the monthly Farmers’ Market, has developed into a centre full of high quality and often local produce.
We need to ensure that prospective business owners get the complete support from the local council. I own my own business and fully appreciate the leap-of-faith that is required to start one up. That helping hand from the local council can be what it takes for an idea to be put into practice – bringing in jobs and visitors the town.
3.) What’s the best way to improve leisure facilities in the town?
The £6 million proposals for new leisure facilities at Westbridge Park could be brilliant for town, providing they stand up to local concerns regarding green space and retail development. The proposed small ‘local’ branch of a supermarket that would fund part of the development is a contentious issue when canvassing on doorsteps in Stone, and local views really are quite mixed. It’s a development that not only could offer fantastic facilities for Stone residents but also bring money into the local economy.
4.) How can visitors be attracted to the town and our tourism offer extended?
We need to build on what people outside Stone think about the town – the Farmers Market, and the Food and Drink Festival. Both are fantastic features of the town and are instrumental in maintaining Stone as the ‘Food and Drink Capital of Staffordshire’.
5.) How would you seek to boost inward investment?
I believe we need to see more proposals similar to the Westbridge Park development that combines public and private money to invest in the town. I’ve heard numerous times on the doorstep “there’s nothing for my children/grandchildren to do in the town” – we could always look to build a similar leisure complex that they have in Uttoxeter to provide jobs and give more for families to do locally.
6.) What do you see as the main issues facing Stone in 2015 and what do you see as the best way to address them?
The biggest issues I have heard whilst doorknocking with our local Labour candidates have been the NHS and inequality. With the NHS, people are particularly concerned with GP waiting times – I have heard countless incidences where people have had to call up their local surgery repeatedly to get an appointment for the next week. We have committed to investing an extra £2.5 billion a year to train, recruit and pay for 20,000 more nurses, 8,000 more GPs and 5,000 more homecare workers. We will guarantee people a GP appointment within 48 hours, and on the same day for those who need it.
We are also faced with an economy in which more and more people are going on minimum-wage, zero-hour contract jobs and this is an issue right across the country. Because of these minimum wage jobs, the government is paying billions in in-work benefits to effectively subsidise businesses. We will address this issue by raising the minimum wage to £8 an hour by 2020, bringing it closer to average earnings, and ban exploitative zero-hour contracts.